Arkansas Times Staff

Chris Burks, a Little Rock lawyer, sends notice of decisions in two cases in which judges decided candidates were ineligible to run for judicial offices.

Today, Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled that Adam Weeks of Walnut Ridge was ineligible to run for circuit judge for Division Three in the Third Judicial District, which covers Randolph, Lawrence, Sharp and Jackson counties.

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Burks, representing Randolph County voter Judith Miller, had sought Weeks’ removal because of four misdemeanor hot check violations and a misdemeanor fictitious tag charge.

Piazza said Weeks couldn’t be disqualified on the hot check charges because, though he forfeited bond on the charges, he did not appear and enter a guilty plea. The Constitution requires for disqualification that a person “admit an act of deceit, fraud or false statement.”  Weeks, however, did admit to appearing and pleading guilty to the false tag charge. He argued this was not an “infamous” crime of the sort for which disqualification is required. He said the court should analyze the circumstances.

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But Piazza said the court, “regrettably,” was prevented from making such an analysis. The Constitution is “straightforward” and the “plain language” requires disqualification of anyone convicted of a charge involving dishonesty. The Court of Appeals has held that a false tag charge includes an element of dishonesty. It prohibits displaying on a vehicle a tag not intended for that vehicle.

Weeks issued this statement:

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“In his ruling today Judge Chris Piazza made it clear that he believes that it’s “absurd” that the law requires that I be denied an opportunity to run for office due to a minor incident that occurred when I was 18 years old. We plan to appeal this ruling and hope that the Supreme Court gives us an expedited ruling.”

Burks also sent a copy of an order by Circuit Judge Ted Capeheart in December that ruled Daren Nelson ineligible to run for district judge in District 34, which covers Calhoun, Cleveland and Dallas counties. Capeheart decided the evidence showed Nelson wasn’t a qualified elector in the district. The judge found that Nelson resided in Bradley County, but he had registered to vote at a run-down restaurant property at Harrell, in Calhoun County, then tried to register the day before trial at a new address in Moro Bay accessible by boat. The judge said evidence showed Nelson didn’t intend to abandon his primary residence and hadn’t proved residence at the alternate locations.

Judicial elections are March 3. The candidates can appeal the decisions.

Three other candidates remain for the vacant Third District seat — Timothy Watson, Hollie Wilson and Joe Grider. Weeks had an advantage on the ballot by being able to run as Judge Adams Weeks. He’s currently serving as Lawrence County District Judge.

The decision on Daren Nelson leaves Tom Wynne as the only candidate for the District 34 judgeship.

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